April 19, 2012
Little Guys Can Do Big Things
Small church doesn't equal small message.
I go to an Episcopal church. We have liturgy. Our pews aren’t padded. We don’t do PowerPoint. We don’t have a visitor’s welcome center. Our website? Kinda lame. Our communications budget? A single line item for a phone book ad, which we cut. A communications committee has started and failed multiple times in the last five years.
We’re what you call a normal church. One of the little guys.
I say that so you understand I’m not from one of these cutting edge churches with communications directors and flat panel TVs and sermon graphics. We’ve got an admin assistant, and Janice puts together a mean newsletter.
So understand where I’m coming from when I say this: There’s hope for the little guy.
The people in this book talk a big talk. And many of them walk the walk. But for us little guys, it’s a little overwhelming. They’re debating microsites and we’re still high-fiving that we even have a website.
But don’t let that scare you away. Don’t let that intimidate you.
The truth is you’re already communicating. Don’t let the fact that you’re little stop you from making it better.
Here are some ways the little guy can step it up:
Make a Plan
Every time my church starts a new communications effort, whether it’s a new website or a new logo, it gets mired down and mucked up. Why? Because we have no plan. Before you talk designs or even methods, start with the basics. Who are you? Why are you communicating? What are you going to say? Who does the work?
We little guys are no megachurch. We’re not ready to tweet and blog and podcast. So start small. Make one steady, consistent, maintainable improvement at a time. Baby steps to the website. Baby steps to bulletins without typos. Baby steps to ditching clipart. Good communication is like a light guiding you in the darkness: It can’t flare up and fade out, it has to burn slow and steady through the night.
Find a Champion
What we little guys really lack is dedicated people power. We have no staff. Janice is a rock star of an admin assistant, but her job description is six pages long. She makes the church run, she doesn’t have time to moonlight as a communications director. So find champions. For each new project, find a champion who will love it, run with it and win. Show them the plan, give them some direction and empower them to make their own decisions (and their own mistakes).
The biggest killer of progress is a lack of progress. If you don’t get anywhere you’ll discourage and dishearten your volunteers and you’ll be starting over again. Adopt the mindset of a startup and do it quick and cheap. Make it better as you go, but make sure you’re going. Don’t wait for perfection.
Ignore the Dissent
We little guys invented “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Change is scary (try suggesting PowerPoint). So as your champion is getting something done with baby steps all according to plan, it’s inevitable that someone will cry out “Facebook is the devil!” And now it’s time to let the dissenters down easy. Change is a comin’ and this little guy may be little, but he’s going to communicate well. Don’t let dissent grind you down.
So remember the story of Junior Asparagus in the VeggieTales version of David and Goliath: “He’s big! But God’s bigger! ... With his help little guys can do big things too!”
We may be small, but we’re not out.
We may not be rock stars, but we can still sing.
We may be little guys, but we’ve got the same grand story. And we can tell it well.
An excerpt from Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication, a collaborative book created by the Center for Church Communication, which brings together some of the leading voices from around the globe on how churches are leveraging new media.